Stalin's Televisions

Matt D. afn02065 at
Thu Jun 29 11:39:31 MDT 1995

I wrote:

>>Let's leave the Stalin=Hitler/Communism=Nazism parallels for the
>>likes of the Discovery Channel (tm)...  In any event, to approach this
>>period of Soviet history in a manner other than "What new perfidy did J.S.
>>perpetrate today?" is not the same as "denying" or "explaining away" anything.

Joseph Lockhard responded:

>Although intelligent distinctions are to be desired between political
>systems, most people familiar with the basics of modern European history
>have no difficulty equating the body counts attributable to Stalinism and
>Nazism.  Also, most have no difficulty remembering that Stalin and Hitler
>infamously joined hands in cooperation. There should be no difficulty
>recognizing common features between Stalinist and Nazi ideologies, and I've
>not the time of my life to devote to education on this point.

Well if we want to play the body-count game, then Stalinism wins hands down
over U.S. imperialist capitalism (what some folks like to refer to as
"democracy") as a humane social system, doesn't it?  I'm not so sure that a
simple counting of corpses is the most useful vector of analysis.


>It hardly reiterates Carlyle's 'great man' historiography to recognize the
>individual significance of particular historic figures.  This paragraph is
>very much an attempt to bury discussion of Stalin as a national cult figure
>beneath a broad consideration of early Soviet history and social
>developments.  That is, class-based (as opposed to individual,
>biographical) historiography is being deployed not for elucidation, as it
>should be, but for concealment of crimes.  Stalin was bad, bad and worse
>--- and not in the Althusserian sense of 'bad'.

Hey, I'm not here to defend Stalin!  I'm just saying that "Evil Stalinism"
is not sufficient to describe the developments in the Soviet Union from 1928
to 1953.

[very interesting story (thanks!) snipped]

>Now that the story's told, what does it mean?  For one, it tells us about
>the cruelly manipulative character of a dictator far removed from the norms
>of justice and legalisms, a man who cynically used a sign of high
>technology as a form of terror and control.  It assigns individual
>responsibility and reminds us that crimes are not impersonal, that they
>have specific authors.  For another, it conveys a miniscule sense of the
>internal terror generated by that Stalinist search for
>counter-revolutionaries, for opposition to a left-fascist dictatorship.

Yes, Stalin was certainly a bad person, and the Stalin period was a
horrifying time for a great number of people (didn't I say something like
this in my previous post?).  As for "left-fascist" I think you obscure the
class character of fascism as distinct from Stalinism in a way that is not
very useful, but perhaps does explain some of the difficulty I seem to have
in communicating clearly with you.

[mentions of sad stories just a few of Stalin's many victims snipped]

>A 'Stalin=bad' perspective is *unfair*?!  Let me vomit on the fucking

Not unfair to Stalin!--maybe this is where the confusion arose--not fair to
the millions of Soviet people who were doing their damndest to build
socialism in those years.

>>Stalinism came and went.  In some ways (I think
>>mostly superficial) it "strengthened" socialism.  In other ways (I think
>>more fundamental) it weakened it.  It was a great tragedy for millions of
>>folks.  Still, it didn't destroy socialism all by itself.  And all things
>>considered, a socialist world with the blemish of twenty years of Stalinism
>>would still approach utopia compared to the capitalism that we're living
>>every day.
>Thus, in this view, we need to take a neutral view of Stalinism, assessing
>both its positive accomplishments and negative points. Ah, and the genocide
>of tens of millions has been reduced to an historical "blemish."  Might it
>not have occurred to Matt that this *is* the history, that 'Bloody Murder!'
>is written in huge letters across the Stalinist legacy, that there can be
>no forgiveness and neutral balancing of political merits and demerits?  A
>mere "blemish" on a political cosmetology, you say?!  Oh for god's sake, go
>to the graveyard and get yourself a heart transplant:  anything there will
>work better than that lifeless model you've got.

Hmmm.  It's not clear to me how taking something other than blanket
condemnation approach to Soviet history in the period 1928 to 1953 is "a
neutral view of Stalinism."

>And no, it didn't destroy socialism all by itself.  Soviet socialism had
>already been destroyed in 1917, when anti-democratic means were chosen to
>advance sectarian party policies.  Socialism didn't exist as a coherent
>force in Russia after 1917, and, whatever lexical expropriations were made,
>Stalinism was and remains utterly antithetical to the word 'socialism.'

Well, it seems we are in disagreement, yes?  And on questions broader than
that of the Stalin period.  Certainly this puts your views in a little
better perspective for me.


>There are no excuses to be made for genocide, and neither are there excuses
>for even a hint of its defence.

I agree!

-- Matt D.

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